Who Should You Vote For?

NB This will be 100%, unashamedly indicative of my own personal political leanings: pretty left. I’m absolutely interested in healthy debate but if you disagree, don’t be a douche about it. Let’s discuss with respect and get on with our lives. 

Here we are, on the eve of perhaps the most important General Election in decades – one we were promised wouldn’t be happening and yet…and yet. I can’t tell you who to vote for and I wouldn’t want to, that decision is incredibly personal and down to you and you alone. I can stress the stress the importance of tomorrow’s poll though.

We are collectively teetering on the very edge of a choice about the kind of country we want to live in and it is every single eligible voters responsibility to be involved in that process.

It would be incredibly easy, especially in the wake of the events of the last fortnight, to feel disillusioned, disengaged and like actually you don’t really give a s**t. Or that it won’t affect your life. Or that your vote doesn’t really matter. The last election was decided by just 5,000 votes. You have a voice, use it.

Use it for the right reasons. The ‘right’ reasons are probably not because your ‘family have always voted that way’ or you probably once read some definitely absolutely indisputably true article about Jeremy Corbyn’s secret back covering tattoo of Chairman Mao.

The right reasons are that you have done your own research, spent some time thinking about the kind of country you want to live in, the kind of country you could live in with pride. The kind of values you want to govern your life and the lives of the people you love the most. Do you want your parents and grandparents to be able to access the right care when they need it and WHERE they need it? Do you want your children to have access to the best education, delivered by teachers who are not so overwhelmed by bureaucracy and testing the hell out of your six year old that they can be creative educators focused on the needs of each individual child? Do you want to know that our leaders are not flogging guns to those with, shall we say ‘questionable’ intentions? Do you really begrudge the highest earners and biggest companies paying a little more tax to support the most vulnerable in our communities and to make these things possible? Do you want someone too afraid to openly discuss her personal beliefs (who can’t even pick an effing Harry Potter character) and unwilling to enter healthy political debate to be leading our country through the minefield of exiting the EU? Do you want ‘Britain’ to be synonymous with inclusivity and love and respect?

From the very first sentence of this post, my leanings were crystal clear. My personal politics and the way I’ll be voting tomorrow are based entirely on my own experience of the world. From growing up in a council house in the deepest depths of the north to my education which was free and fantastic and taught me that austerity is not the way to stimulate economic growth. From my policeman dad who constantly throws himself (sometimes far too literally) in the face of danger to help others despite being consistently under resourced to my mum who saves lives each and every day in an NHS funded hospital no longer fit for purpose. From the care my in-laws received to the lives I want my step-children to have.

Spend some time today informing yourself, read the manifestos, think seriously about the things that are important to you, about kind of country you’d be proud to call home. One which bows down to the pressure of a tango’d madman, cuts public services beyond all recognition and workability? Or one that genuinely wants the best outcome for the most people as much of the time as possible?

Whatever your political leanings, please please go and vote. It matters.

Deep breath and three…..two….one….discuss?

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Spring Clean Your Life

spring clean your lifeI’m relentlessly cheery today, it could be sunstroke but there’s something about those first truly sunshiny spring days that just make me want to get my sh*t together and sort stuff out. All the stuff. That life admin that you just don’t have the time or the energy for in the depths of winter suddenly becomes infinitely possible.

I only really get the sorting-it-out feeling twice a year, Spring and early September with all the promise of an empty  (definite hangover from school life. This and that new pair of Kickers I treat myself to at the end of the Summer…)

With a super long weekend on the way and motivation levels at an all time sun kissed* high, here are some ideas on spring cleaning your little life:

Clear your wardrobe I don’t want to steal Marie Kondo’s thunder but just drag every last bit of it out there and start going through. If it doesn’t make you feel like your absolute best self when you wear or think about wearing it and if you haven’t had it on in six months, get rid of it. Give it to a local charity looking for donations or flog it on Ebay or Depop or whatever the cool kids are using these days.

Get seasonal Spruce up your weekly menu with some jazzy new season stuff. It’s the perfect time to step away from the heavy stews and the chilis and get some salads and springy stir fries on the table. Cabbage is so in right now, I have a cracking quick and easy satay chicken and cabbage salad recipe to share soon (nicer than it sounds, I swear!) Also, is there any better way to spend an hour than surrounded by your favourite recipe books with a mug of tea bigger than your head? Nope.

Set up a savings account In an absolutely ideal world you’d be putting away around 20% of what you earn every month whether it’s into a pot for a new sofa, a holiday or just your rainy day fund. Because I’m achingly rock and roll, my savings are currently split between my pension (insert rocking out hand emoji. right. here) and a Vegas (baby) trip. I’m conflicted, what can I say. Whatever you can afford to save, you’re most likely to succeed if you automate it to come out of your wages every month straight into a savings account. Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world and 20% might be a no go but there is something good for the soul about having the discipline to save regularly and even if you start really small it will grow quicker than you think.

Plan some adventures Big or little, near or far, it really doesn’t matter. Just make some plans. I want to explore much more of the UK this year, we’re off along the south coast in June, I’m thinking about Edinburgh later in the year and I may or may not be planning a cheeky little anniversary surprise for the old fella somewhere further south than we are.

Check your bills Prepare yourself, this may be the most hardcore thing I’ve EVER written: are you paying what you should be for your bills? Use any of the comparison sites to check (I think we used USwitch). It’s normally a pretty easy process and as long as you’re paying your bills directly, you can normally switch to a better deal even if you’re a renter.

Make a date with someone you haven’t seen for a while or someone you don’t see enough of. That person who just popped into your mind? Phone them right now. Or text them if you’re an awkward squid on the phone.

Dust your corners Not a clever metaphor mate, literally get on your knees and clear the dust from all of your corners, under the bed, behind the fridge. Get a decent playlist or podcast on the go and just get on with it.  Your world will be eleven and a half times lovelier.

Get Better at Something cooking, paddleboarding, roller blading if you’re stuck in 2001. Whatever. Make it your mission to use those lighter evenings to practice something that makes your heart sing. Mine is photography. Mine has been photography for a couple of years to be fair but this year I’m going to nail it. Stage one: photography book, garden, cup of tea, sunshine. Stage two: pick up camera. I hit stage one this weekend.

What’s on your Spring ‘to do’ list?

*if your motivation is stuck at drizzle level, feel free to spend the weekend cosied up inside with tea and books (cough a box set – try Line of Duty). It’s an equally valid way to spend four days.

This post is not sponsored by savings or seasons, just my own horrifyingly adult brain kicking in. FYI twenty one year old me wants to kick pension chatting me in the nuts.

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National Pet Month: All About My Tribe #Ad

National Pet MonthLike the pooch lover who recently made his dog employee of the quarter, I like to think I’m pretty good at letting Pete and Betty know just how much of an integral part of my daily life they are. However, when Tesco Bank asked if we’d like to do something a bit more special to celebrate our friendship in honour of National Pet Month, of course I jumped at the chance.

Starting on 1st April, National Pet Month celebrates awesome pet friendships across the land as well as trying to reduce re-homing levels by encouraging you to do your homework before bringing a new fur baby into the family.

As a self-confessed lifelong dog botherer, I was pretty sure I knew what I was letting myself in for with a spaniel. The husband and I did our research, talked to friends and family and hung out with a lot of spaniels to learn about their particular quirks (high energy, completely barmy and totally loveable FYI). In short, we made sure our lives could cope with a spaniel.

And then we got two.

The day we went to pick Betty up, it turned out that Pete’s furever home had fallen through. Twice.  And I just couldn’t leave him there to take his chances. He is the undisputed king of the puppy dog eyes.

We live a very active life and are lucky enough to be surrounded by plenty of fantastic walks and beaches for Pete and Betty to enjoy so they were a perfect fit for us and slotted right into our little world as if they’d always been there. It really helped that we knew what to expect before we brought them home.

You can figure out the right fit for you by really doing your research, there’s a wealth of information out there. Is the breed you like super energetic or a massive snoozer? Are they going to grow too big to handle? Are they good with children? Hopefully you’ll have your pooch for over a decade so it’s an important consideration. And you need to be really honest with yourself: do you have the time, energy and money to give your dog the best life? If the answer to any one of those is no then perhaps think again.

For me, Pete and Betty were the best choice. They instantly became my tribe, my absolute bffs. They listen when I rant, they lie patiently by my side whilst I’m working or writing things on the internet about them. They are ALWAYS ready to come on an adventure with me in the great outdoors. No one else is ever so excited to see me that they inadvertently bite my bum! In celebration of our most special of friendships, I treated Pete and Betts to their best. Day. Ever.  Which incidentally wasn’t too shabby for me either.

We kicked off with a little garden party with one of our best friends and complete blonde bombshell Molly. I serenely drank tea with Molly’s mum* whilst those three splashed about in the sprinkler, played in the ball pool and got up to all kinds of mischief.

National Pet Month

There’s always that one friend who ruins the photo…

National Pet MonthNational Pet MonthNational Pet MonthNational Pet MonthSpaniels LOVE the water so phase two involved a whole lot of digging, splashing and seagull chasing on the beach.National Pet MonthNational Pet MonthNational Pet MonthOur perfect day ended with some of our favourite snacks and treats, kindly provided by Tesco Bank Pet Insurance and a good snuggle on the sofa.National Pet MonthNational Pet MonthNational Pet MonthTell me all about your fur friends.

*of course I didn’t. this is what I did.National Pet MonthNational Pet Month

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Who IS this Woman?

Habits of Successful WomenLast week’s column (my last ever *sniff*) was shared to Facebook for the first time. Not my own FB page OBVIOUSLY, the paper is getting all social folks – isn’t it a glorious thing? It was the piece on The Donald and his heinousness. Heiniosity? That should be a word. Living in the darkest depths of Devon, I suspected it would provoke the rage of a thousand angry people who do not share my fairly liberal peace and love views. My maths were off but I was broadly right: social media gave it an exposure that print never has and that is not a dull place to be. Terrifying? Yes. But certainly not dull.

Knowing that the comments section is the place humanity generally goes to die, I pushed my millennial self-loathing deep down inside and resisted looking. However, when my dad shared a screenshot of the column’s nascent infamy, he also captured the first keyboard warrior asking ‘who IS this woman’?

It’s a good question Mr Whatsisface – who AM I?

Well, since you asked: I’m a week shy of my thirty third birthday. I’m a wife, step-mother, professional something or other and enthusiastic cheerleader for our wonderful Devonish corner of the world. If I could eat pepperoni pizza for every meal I would happily do so. I love to sing but am abysmal at it, I skilfully hid this from my husband until well after the wedding – it is a truly offensive noise. I say hello to every single dog I meet without fail. I am clumsy, so very clumsy. But I am also articulate and determined and ambitious and kind. It’s been said that I have half a brain, I think it was a compliment.

I believe, however naively, in the ultimate goodness of people.

I am a woman terrified about the world my step-babies, and in time their babies, will inherit. I am a person who has known the sheer joy that travelling freely around the world brings. I work full time and hard to pay my bills and my taxes and my student flipping loans. I vote. I feel saddened at the persecution faced by people different to me in only the most superficial ways. I recognise just how privileged we are to live in this country in this day in age with all the freedoms that allows and don’t believe that is something to take for granted. Ever.

I could go on but I suspect what you really wanted to ask is what gives me the ‘right’ to discuss *gasp* the politics of planet earth? Above all, I am a human being. THAT is what qualifies me to discuss what is happening in the world on whatever platform I have at hand and damn well choose to  use. It’s a wonderful right denied to many.

Thanks for asking!

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How to Have a Better Day Than the one You’re Having

beside the seaside 2I left my bed in the middle of the night woken by a snotty snoring husband and kept awake by a coughy spluttery teenager. Sneaking down to the furthest point away from THE NOISE, I unleashed the spaniels who inevitably thought it was sodding Christmas. Consequently, I found myself lying under a pooch blanket willing Stephen Fry to lull me back to sleep with The Goblet of Fire until the alarm went off at seven. Four and a half hours later. I’ve felt much much fresher than I do today.

Being the mother of all spiralers, my special gift is to too often let a bad start to the day wrap its Dementor like fingers of doom around the rest of my waking hours and drag me screaming into the abyss. No, YOU’RE overdramatic.

In a bid to live a happier life I’ve been working on not letting a crappy start set the tone for the day; life is sadistic enough without chucking a stinking soul sucking mood on top. Here at the teeny tiny things I’ve done to make today better for me in the hope that some of them might also work for you:

The morning coffee. Instead of grasping it in one hand whilst emptying the dishwasher, writing an overdue column and de-pooping a dog simultaneously with the other, I just stopped. For five whole minutes I sat and enjoyed every mouthful. To the untrained eye it *might* have looked like I was staring into space trying not to dilute the sweet sweet caffeine with my tears. I was being mindful, in the moment, clearing my head. Also works with green tea, a good cup of builders or a smoothie you may or may not have tried to put kale into. Does not work with gin.

List like a boss. I spent another five minutes writing a list. A list of things that absolutely had to be done today and that I could conceivably manage on my three hours sleep. You really don’t need to add to your despair by trying to put your over tired brain to work on rewriting physics or something. Baby steps. Every tick is good for the soul.

Eat well. I wanted to shovel refried Chinese takeaway and jar of Nutella into my face but instead I shoved in a bowl of cereal and grabbed some fruit on my way out of the door. I also wanted to eat a decent lunch of avo and mushrooms on toast but I arrived home to dog vom and instead had sweet black tea on the kitchen floor.  Eat properly, hungry and tired is a very bad combo.

Smile. I’ve been trying to do this airy fairy thing where I smile before I open any door so that whatever’s on the other side is met with a smile. The downside is that I look like I’m smiling at doors but the upside is that I keep getting lots of smiles in return. That’s never a bad thing.

Make someone else’s day. Another complete hippy dippy offering but do something nice for someone else, even if you just tell them you like their hair. It’s always nice to be nice and it’s guaranteed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Dance party for one. There’s not much better in life than a kitchen dance party but on a day like this the song has to be absolutely right. This is not, repeat not, a Bridget Jones All By Myself moment. This is a Christina Yang before Burke realises she hasn’t really moved in with him moment. That’s what we’re aiming for. I went for Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite, my all time cheerer upper.

img_4825Move. I’m ‘lucky’ in that I have to get outside every single morning whether the sun is shining or not hashtag doglife. Actually being forced to get up and move is at least 462 times better than sitting in my pyjamas feeling miserable about how tired I am. Move your arse. NOW.

Read Something. Whatever you choose – news, novel or relentlessly perky blog post – just escape for a few minutes, learn something new, get a different perspective. Just step outside of your life for a sec and then come back and try again. On the kitchen floor with my tea I read a couple of pages of Birds Without Wings. It’s beautiful.

The Sun’ll Come Out….tomorrow. No, stop. STOP Hard Knock Life-ing. Just remember that tomorrow is a whole new day that brings with it a fresh start and the chance to try all over again.

Reading this back, after that first Dementor bit it’s all a bit cheery and practical. I think this means I’m growing as a human being. It may also mean I drank gin at eight this morning and passed out in the shed so the rest of this is a sweet sweet fantasy.

HAPPY MONDAY!

Apologies for the spaniel bodily function chat, it’s just my life.

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